Technical writing is my bread and butter, but I love fiction writing. As a child, I enjoyed making up stories and creating adventures for my GI Joe and Major Matt Mason action figures. As I started writing, my Holy Grail was to write The Great American Novel, make the New York Times bestseller list, get the seven-figure movie deal, and be included in literature textbooks for generations to come (except in the six states and nine countries where my books are banned).
As I got older, I had to temper my love of fiction writing with reality.
Non-fiction is an easy sell. These books address a specific need, like learning to give impromptu talks. Success can be easily measured. Is the information correct? Can someone complete a task, solve a problem, or answer a question using the book?
Fiction is a harder sell. What need does a story fill? And how do you measure success?
The need we try to fill in fiction is our own. It must be to maintain the passion needed to complete a book. We imagine that our need matches some audience’s need. We can’t be sure, especially when books can take years to write. What readers want today won’t be the same as when the book is published. Since creative works are subjective, there are no clear metrics to determine success. You can look at sales and reviews, but how do you measure the degree someone is moved by a story or how long characters linger in a reader’s imagination?
That is the challenge of fiction writing.
We have a story to tell, a story we feel someone needs. We struggle to craft an engaging world that a reader would want to enter. We have characters we want to bring to life. We put them through difficulties that force them (and our readers) to grow. We put our creation through the rigor of beta reviews, submissions, editing, and design. We revise, refine, and revise again. In the end, we created something that never existed before. We made a something tangible to share with the world, a story.
We also write in fear that we have a story we will leave untold. When we go, our imagination goes with us. So we tell stories while we can. Because we need to. Because we have an altruistic quest to share something positive and a selfish desire to leave something behind.
My love of writing fiction became something other than being the next Stephen King. It’s a need for connection. To have a story and to have people who want to read it. As long as I have these feelings with me, I will always love writing fiction.